Democrats & Liberals Archives

Anakin's Choice

I think the Republican position is by and large too short-sighted. It looks at the here and the now of what we done, but does not consider that what is happening right now is in dynamic fluctuation. True, we’ve overthrown two Dictatorships, but have we replaced them with something truly democrat, governments that are stable and which will last?

If, ten years down the line, these governments, these nations are not in good working order, then we may have simply trade one threat for another, or worse, as in the case of Iraq, traded a relatively non-threatening situation for a dangerous one.

To create a democracy is not as simple as exchanging governments, because essentially, people are the government. A democracy like ours must develop to be a true democracy. That development must take place at the grassroots level with conscientious attention paid to educating people about the process.

That is not what this administration has done. Their idea of democracy is a top-down affair. They think only in terms of what the mandate to lead indicates, not in terms of who that mandate comes from. They may use the visual of the ink-stained thumbs as a sign of Democracy, but they did not take the time to really tell these people what they were getting into.

As Andrew Shepherd says in The American President:

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

Although I don't agree with everything he says in that speech, right there is the ultimate challenge of Democracy, and why it fails so often in other, less mature, less prepared countries. People think of civil order and other things in terms of how it ran under more arbitrary authority, and they make what we might call "Anakin's Choice", the choice to defend themselves, their beliefs, and their loved ones with any and all means, including violence and the creation of tyrannical government. It's the quick and easy way of creating government, and as we've seen time and time again, one doomed to a dark path.

Democracy is about having the patience to let a majority govern that you are not part of. In return, you live under a set of laws that allows you to hold your beliefs regardless of whether those currently in power approve. You don't necessarily see those beliefs manifested, but you nonetheless don't have to fear your own death, imprisonment, or censorship for that. Nobody's guaranteed to like you, but then that's a good sign: the only such guarantee would be a tyranny on your part, and it would ultimately be a lie; people would still believe what they want behind their smiling or unsmiling faces.

The question we should ask, is would the vast majority of Iraqis and Afghanis accept the blood boiling words of another, or would they chose the shortcuts of tyranny? If they do so, and their governments do not recover from that mistake, then all our efforts will have been in vain.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2006 8:27 AM
Comment #121344

I feel like the current administration is using the force choke technique on us… “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Posted by: darth tree hugger at February 6, 2006 8:55 AM
Comment #121346

There’s no way to convince them that things are going badly. The fact that they keep having to borrow away from the defecit to pour more money into Iraq should be a symptom of the overall issue. How long are we going to keep it up?

Obviously, their base at the top doesn’t care because their profits are up in the short term and that justifies the rah rahing.

On the other hand, did we really create a functioning democracy or just an environment where revenge is the common denominator?

It’s funny how the GOP is so internatiopnalist in its approach, but they were decidely against going to Serbia and getting rid of Milosevic or stabilizing Hatii. Where was the pining for Democracy then? Where was the need to remove tyranny?

Posted by: The Corner Butcher at February 6, 2006 9:06 AM
Comment #121356

As long as we are on the topic of Star Wars analogies, would anyone be willing to take a guess on how long it will be before bush announces the creation of the American Empire?

Posted by: montanademocrat at February 6, 2006 10:05 AM
Comment #121360

Butcher, I want to know why it was so important to bring democracy to Iraq, and yet Musharraf’s military junta in Pakistan is Bush’s best friend. And I don’t see Bush strong arming Saudi Arabia, either.

Posted by: American Pundit at February 6, 2006 10:07 AM
Comment #121370
As long as we are on the topic of Star Wars analogies, would anyone be willing to take a guess on how long it will be before bush announces the creation of the American Empire?

If the Democrats win back the House and/or Senate in November, he’ll abolish them as the “last vestiges of the old Republic” :-)

Posted by: Steve K at February 6, 2006 10:18 AM
Comment #121384

Corner Butcher-
When it comes down to it, The Bush Administration wanted things now, and they didn’t want to have to discuss it or keep it a secret. They don’t like having to be persuasive, since that entails the complications of discussion and compromise, the latter contemporary Republicans and conservatives have been taught to despise.

To get to the power they have now, the Republicans have made a habit of doing what it takes to win. This shapes one’s thinking, one’s interaction with the public. That in turn cycles back on the thinking. A system built to break the Democratic/New Deal consensus is still doing its job long after its job was done. With no real enemy to defeat, the Republican Revolution has done what many revolutions have done, which is to function instead as a radicalizing influence, inhibiting behavior that doesn’t fit into the picture, instead of settling into equilibrium.

The GOP censors its own perspective, so that it can’t admit its faults without losing cohesion. They build consensus more on the will of their members to unite, than the organic swaying of opinion by word and deed. Feedback from the real world is limited to that which encourages the continuation of the revolution.

Of course, that means they’re often acting blindly, since events and conditions affect outcomes even when people don’t acknowledge them. You can bubble yourself off from knowledge, but you can’t bubble yourself off from the consequences of being wrong. You might be able to stall those who would hold you accountable, or convince people that you’re not wrong, but ultimately, the price for ignorance and acting on ignorance comes through.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2006 10:45 AM
Comment #121424


Posted by: goodkingned at February 6, 2006 12:13 PM
Comment #121438

“If the Democrats win back the House and/or Senate in November, he’ll abolish them as the “last vestiges of the old Republic” :-)

Posted by: Steve K at February 6, 2006 10:18 AM “

This falls into the realm of “my greatest nightmares”. Of course I realize it couldn’t really happen.

And, yet, from my “what the hell was he thinking file”, quoting Bill Clinton:
“I think since people are living much longer… the 22nd Amendment should probably be modified to say two consecutive terms instead of two terms for a lifetime,” he said.

So there is historical precedent that presidents (in this case a past president) have imagined some pretty far reaching changes to the constitution. And of course there is the gay marriage ban amendment.

Can anyone imagine Bush saying, “in order to provide greater security during this time of terrorist threat and social unrest………..”.

OK, OK, time to see my shrink again.

Posted by: KansasDem at February 6, 2006 1:03 PM
Comment #121474

Great post! I especially liked the movie quote. Even though President Shepherd was a bit too liberal for my taste, I still wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. The problem is, most of today’s Americans cannot grasp the idea of free speech. Going back to the beginning, the framers of the Constitution were not talking about flag burning, t-shirts, or pictures. They were talking about political discourse, the free exchange of concepts and ideas between groups of diverse views. The idea being that each side had the right to express it’s views without being censored. Unfortunately, in today’s world, free speech seems to be a coverall for anything and everything, except political expression.

Part of the problem goes to the lack of education about government in this country. As has been pointed out, a majority of voters have no idea who represents them on the local, state, or national level. They are too fricking lazy to find out. Come election time, they go in the booth and pull the lever that they always pull, D or R. This is probably the dumbest way to elect candidates that a society has ever come up with.

Of course, a large percentage of voters don’t even bother to vote. They feel that their vote doesn’t count. This is a nice self-fulfilling prophecy, if you don’t vote, your vote definitely doesn’t count.

The major problem with our electorate is that they have never faced a challenge to their right to go to the polls, at least not recently. The exception to that would be the African-American segment. There are still many alive who remember the days of poll taxes and “qizzes” that disenfranchised large numbers, especially in the South. Have you noticed the voter turnout in the former Soviet Union? or Iraq, or any place where people finally feel they have a say in the government? Usually quite high. However, I would venture to say that in a few years, it will become less and less important and the turnout will drop off.

What will it take to get our folks off their duffs and into the voting booth? I don’t know, but I sure hope someone comes up with an answer before it’s too late. Right now, less than 25% of the eligible voters control elections. That’s wrong!

Posted by: John Back at February 6, 2006 2:24 PM
Comment #121481

Part of the reason democracies fail is that their borders were forced upon them by colonialism. At times, this was an intentional decision by the colonial powers. Countries which lacked ethnic/tribal/religious cohesion are easier to control. ‘Divide and conquer’ works well in a colonial model.

Because countries with a colonial past usually have borders imposed upon them, they lack cultural homogeneity. In many countries, traditional enemies find themselves part of a nation, like it or no.

Imposing democracy from the top down results in an easily foreseeable development: the tyranny of the majority. With no history of a loyal opposition (just the opposite!), and no history of respect for minority rights, democracy quickly turns ugly.

The typical pattern was for colonialists to establish a country’s minority in power over a majority. The colonialists would provide the minority the weapons it needed to repress the majority & rule. But when colonial powers withdrew, and the tables turned, it was a very uncomfortable situation. The Colonial power might have walked away, but the minority was there to stay, and now at the mercy of a democratically elected majority.

The rest is history… one we’re condemned to repeat.

Posted by: phx8 at February 6, 2006 2:44 PM
Comment #121511

Democracy is about having the patience to let a majority govern

Only within a context of guarantees of rights for those who are not in the majority, a process that we have seen eroding year by year under the current administration.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 6, 2006 3:46 PM
Comment #121531

ray ohrealy

It’s not just this administration that is, or has, attempted to stifle dissent. Every administration has done this in one form or the other. It’s called the power structure. Even in a country that prides itself on being free, we are still reined in in so many ways. Our government stifles dissent by calling it “unpatriotic”. We also censor speech by calling it “hate” speech. We can also take the position, which both left and right do, that free speech is only acceptable if it agrees with what I think. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If we are to have free speech, it must be truly free. I should have the right to express my opinion whether you like it or not. And, you should have the same right. Because I do not agree with you I do not have the right to stop you from speaking.

However, now, we consider it acceptable to shout down anyone we don’t agree with, or we put names to those who espouse causes that we don’t like. We call them “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobes”, etc. Or we go the other way.

Both are wrong! If I want to take a stand that is racist, I have that right. I want to espouse a pro-choice position, I have that right. You may not agree with me, but you do not have the right to stop me. Of course, there are limits, both legal and common sense. I do not have the right to advocate the violent overthrow of our government. I do have the right to say that the government does not represent me and should be changed at the ballot box.

Only when we can fully embrace the idea of diverse opinions freely stated will we considered a truly free society.

Posted by: John Back at February 6, 2006 4:33 PM
Comment #121548

John Back-
The things to keep in mind in terms of the range of what can be considered free speech:

a)There is no clear distinguishing difference between regular matters and political, because government touches or can touch upon nearly every aspect of our lives.

b)By eliminating any restriction on free speech, one eliminates many of the arbitrary controls that could be placed upon it by definitional creep, preserving the hard-to-define political speech as a side-effect.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #121564


I think I agree with your first point and know that I don’t understand your second.

Posted by: John Back at February 6, 2006 5:39 PM
Comment #121606

John Back-
If what’s political speech is hard to define, then the attempt to preserve political speech without preserving the rest becomes inherently problematic.

The distinction one would make between political and nonpolitical speech would be so much in the eye of the beholder that abuse would be guaranteed. If tomorrow we banned defeatist speech about the war, the Bush supporters would naturally define defeatism to mean faithlessness in their plans, even if the person believes the war is winnable.

See the problem?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2006 7:47 PM
Comment #121621


Thank you. Now I agree with both your comments. It would fall in the same category as Bill Cosby being labelled a racist for some of his comments. Although, from what I have seen, this would not be considered smearing because we would be discussing a “protected” class.

Posted by: John Back at February 6, 2006 8:27 PM
Comment #121844

John Back-
In terms of racial issues, I think we should do all we can to make minorities feel part of the community. Those who feel they have a stake in society step up to protect it and reinforce it. Our forced exclusion of many minorities has been detrimental to our economic strength and our cohesion as a nation.

Anakin’s choice is the choice of an outsider who feels he has no other course of action than to seize control and force people to do things his way. He sees corruption and evil in the world and figures he should have the strength to overpower it. Unfortunately, in becoming so ambitious in seeking power, to right past wrongs, he becomes trapped in his own world of justifications and is corrupted by his drive to impose his will on others. He misjudges others who don’t share his ideals or his perspective on events until at some point he crosses the line, and has no choice but to take an evil course for the greater good.

Our society is particularly vulnerable to this course to the dark side. Despite our nation’s power, we can still be on the losing side, still make mistakes, and screw things up, all of which can plant the seed of the desire for more power. Again and again our politicians promise us that something will never happen again (Thought it often does), or promise victory over some intractable problem. Even then, it never happens that way, and we start assuming that if only we had more power… Trouble is, we’re still human, and the world is still complex.

Sometimes more power is what is needed to get a job done. The world isn’t always that simple though, and consequently, sometimes more power is never enough power. If one is sufficiently blind to that fact, one can become possessed by one’s will to power, one can become it, and justify everything one does through it, with ones former motives only a shadow to this one. We move to gain more power for its own sake.

Nobody’s invulnerable to this. We all have our causes for which we would trade our soul, all have our point at which power would become its own motivation.

The trouble with creating Democracy elsewhere, especially in the post colonial world, comes in the fact that we essentially are in the position of playing Luke to somebody else’s Vader. In the process of trying to save those who have already fallen to the temptations of absolute power, those Anakins consumed by their Vaders, we may just end up making Anakin’s choice ourselves, as Luke almost does in the movies.

It’s interesting to note that in subsequent literature, Luke does indeed fall to the dark side, naturally to be redeemed again at some point. It’s a constant temptation across the board for the powerful Jedi, especially after events have taken a turn for the worse and despair enters the picture.

9/11 has made Anakin’s temptation our own. If only we have enough power, we can overthrow evil, and have peace. But when increased power alone fails to solve the problem, and power becomes its own justification, we stand in danger of losing ourselves to it, and destroying our Democracy in the process.

Ultimately, we have to recognize that whatever means we use, we are not perfect, and never can be; not all powerful, and really shouldn’t be. We have to step back and really figure out what we value, and what we can do, consistent with what we value, to do what we need to do in the best way we can.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 7, 2006 8:58 AM
Comment #122135


I wholeheartedly agree with you. There is always a temptation to fall to the dark side and embrace the acquisition and protection of power as the ultimate end. This happens to nations as well as individuals. Our redemption comes when we realize that there is something more important than power for it’s own sake. Luke was a powerful Jedi but he learned that his power was to be used for good, not evil. Sometimes nations need to learn that same lesson.

For some of us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has proven to be the way out of the dark side. By following Jesus’ teaching about what is truly important, by really trying to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, and by finding that service to others is more satisfying than the accumulation of power or wealth, we have come back. We don’t always agree on what the loving position is, we don’t always see everything the same way, but we are devoted to trying to make life better for those around us.

Posted by: John Back at February 7, 2006 11:31 PM
Comment #123493

Of course if you believe you are inherently right, that makes it especially dangerous. Truly dangerous people do not believe they are doing evil, they think they are doing good. This feeling of righteousness can come from religion or other sources (like marxism). This is why the religious right is so dangerous. Since in their minds they know what God wants, neither they nor their party can do wrong. I guess it’s really the same as Al Qaeda. We must base our views and opinions on reason and always be open to the possibility of being wrong.

Posted by: John at February 11, 2006 1:32 AM
Post a comment